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March 28, 2008

Pingg and the Evolution of Language

Once upon a time, a programmer needed to do some network troubleshooting.

sonar.gifHe wrote a little program to tell him whether a given network host was accessible and how long it took to get a signal there and back. He named this program after the sonar pulses used to determine how far away an object was in space.

And thus “ping” was born.

Five years ago, most of us only encountered the term if we had to call our ISP’s tech support because we couldn’t get online. Then the tech support technician would ask us to open a command line and ping Google or some other site they absolutely knew was working.

But now the word “ping” has entered our everyday language, particularly among the BlackBerry-toting business types who use “offline” when they mean “in private” or “after this discussion is over.” (Real geeks know that what they want to say is “use the back-channel.”)

“Ping me” does not mean “try to reach my network host to see if it’s working.” It means “contact me” or “remind me.” Keith Ferrazzi uses “pinging” to mean keeping in frequent touch with your contacts, to remind them who you are and how helpful you can be to them.

pingg_logo-1.gifNow there’s pingg, an online invitation service discovered this week by Springwise.

Despite the obligatory Web 2.0 spelling of the name, pingg shows us just how far this once-obscure term has penetrated into popular consciousness. It doesn’t take a geek to want to send out invitations online, and pingg provides every conceivable way to get your friends’ attention: e-mail, SMS text message, social networks, and even good old-fashioned snail mail.

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Posted by Diane Prange at March 28, 2008 8:02 AM
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